Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys relish challenge of playing undefeated Panthers

Quarterback Tony Romo may have led the Cowboys to their first win since Week 2, but undefeated Carolina presents a tougher challenge.
Quarterback Tony Romo may have led the Cowboys to their first win since Week 2, but undefeated Carolina presents a tougher challenge. Star-Telegram

The Dallas Cowboys won their first game in more than two months Sunday, and they couldn’t even enjoy it. There was no time for an extended celebration.

Not only do the Cowboys still have a lot of work left to dig out of a deep hole, but the undefeated Carolina Panthers also come to town Thursday afternoon.

“Everybody is working through this week, coming through a ballgame,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Somehow, some way, you’ve got to get your mind and your eyes forward on the next challenge. I think we did that [Monday].

“We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the Miami game. We’ve got our eyes on Carolina in our meetings and our walk-through, and I thought guys handled it well.”

Tony Romo returned after a seven-game absence and brought hope and hype back to the Cowboys. Dallas’ 24-14 victory over the Dolphins was its first since a Week 2 win over the Eagles — when Romo fractured his left collarbone.

Romo completed 18 of 28 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. At times, he looked rusty. At other times, he was vintage Romo.

“I thought he did a good job in a couple of instances when he didn’t see it great or might have been late to a throw, he kind of burned the ball in a real positive way for us and kind of lived for another day,” Garrett said. “I thought as the game wore on, he looked more and more like himself.”

Garrett said Romo came out of the game fine physically. But can the quarterback’s surgically repaired back hold up to the short week better than last season?

Tony Romo was 18-for-29 passing for 199 yards with two interceptions in a 33-10 loss to the Eagles last year on Thanksgiving.

Romo was 18-for-29 passing for 199 yards with two interceptions in a 33-10 loss to the Eagles last year on Thanksgiving. Garrett, though, pointed out that the schedule was more challenging last year.

“He’s a lot further away from the injury, the back injury, so we do think he’s going to be more able to handle the consecutive days in the short week,” Garrett said. “If you remember last year ... we played Sunday night in New York and got home at 6 o’clock on Monday morning, so it was a quick week for everybody.

“We certainly weren’t at our best. We didn’t handle that situation very well. So I think everybody feels better about what went on [Monday] than we did last year at this time. I think a lot of that had to do with the logistics of the schedule.”

Romo twice has led the Cowboys to victories over undefeated teams. The 2006 Colts were 9-0 before losing to the Cowboys 21-14. The 2009 Saints were 13-0 before losing to the Cowboys 24-17. Both the ’06 Colts and the ’09 Saints went on to win the Super Bowl in their respective seasons.

The Cowboys opened as 1-point underdogs to the 10-0 Panthers.

“Going against a team like them, they’re coming here with all the confidence they have; they’re 10-0 right now,” running back Darren McFadden said. “So we have to just play a mistake-free game. We have to go out there and make plays when they’re presented to us, and take full advantage of the opportunities that we have and take care of business.”

The Cowboys (3-7) remain 16th — and dead last — in the NFC playoff standings based on tiebreakers, but they are only two games behind the New York Giants in the NFC East.

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

Panthers at Cowboys

3:30 p.m. Thursday, KTVT/11

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